Local polls delayed by funding problems

Despite funding problems, the general-director of the Mozambican Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), Antonio Carasco, is determined to ensure the success of local elections, due in November.

"We must make sure these local elections go well, and not like the last ones," Carasco told IRIN. The country's last local polls in 1999 were beset with logistical problems and boycotted by the main opposition party, RENAMO.

Preparations for this year's elections have been far from smooth. They have already been postponed once, from the original date in October to 19 November.

Lack of funds has been the major problem, said Carasco. A US $3.7 million pledge by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) did not arrive in time for the registration process. An accord was signed with UNDP last month, and Carasco is now confident the funds will be available to STAE this week.

The National Elections Commission and its technical arm, STAE, have been functioning on money loaned by the government in anticipation of the UNDP financing. Carasco said the funds were insufficient and registration materials ran out in some areas, including Maputo province, where voter registration posts had to suspend work because they had exhausted supplies of forms, and film used for voter ID photos.

STAE's response has been to register voters first, and issue voters' cards at a later date. Despite the delays in compiling the voters' rolls, Carasco said he felt confident the STAE would be able to register at least 60 percent of the targeted 2.5 million people.

However, the opposition RENAMO-Electoral Union coalition has criticised the decision to issue voters' cards after registration. RENAMO has also demanded that Carasco step down, accusing him of being a staunch member of the ruling FRELIMO party.

Dismissing the charge, Carasco told IRIN: "I'm a technician, not a politician, and I'm working for the state."

November's local elections will be followed by the country's third general elections. FRELIMO, which has won the last two, has named its secretary-general, Armando Guebuza, as its new presidential candidate.

President Joachim Chissano, who steered the country through a peace process that ended 16 years of civil war, will step down after two consecutive terms in office.

RENAMO leader Alfonso Dhlakama told IRIN that if he wins the next general elections, he would do more to revitalise agriculture, put more effort into fighting HIV/AIDS, and combat corruption and crime, which he said are "the enemy of development".

Asked why he was participating much more in public functions these days alongside Chissano, indicating an improving relationship, the former rebel leader smiled and replied, "It's because I'm growing."